Friday, September 04, 2009

On the other hand...

I did fieldwork with a student this afternoon. And am reminded that I am not teaching for the CryBaby WhinyPants of the world, but for students who give a damn, like the student I worked with today does.

She is a "non traditional" student; we get a lot of them. They tend to either be people who are former military, people who have been out in the workforce and want a change, women whose kids are grown and want to complete the degree they didn't complete before (or who want a whole different career). In other words, people who have experience in life, who have maturity, and who know why they're in college.

The woman I worked with today is fairly typical. She's a couple years older than I am (she mentioned one day that she was 43). She's divorced, her kids are grown and out of the house, and she decided that she was sick of working as an ambulance driver/EMT so she wanted to go into conservation - particularly, the plant sciences end of things.

She expresses considerable frustration to me with "these conservation boys" - the guys I was talking about yesterday, who are all about phoning it in and who seem to think the perfect job will magically appear for them when they graduate.

She actually believes my advice to "do as many different things as you can; learn as much different stuff as you can, because you never know when particular knowledge or a particular skill will come in handy."

She also really loves what she is doing. And that makes things a lot different.

She's a very talkative person, and I admit (I hope this doesn't sound too churlish) I could do without some of the constant chatter in the field. But I'm willing to overlook that because she cares.

She was out doing field research with me this afternoon - for no pay, for no extra credit, simply because she wanted to learn the plants common around here and knew that would be a good way to do it.

(She may well mind up being a "second Dan" - Dan was a student we had a few years back, who went on to good success in grad school, in part because he was the sort of person who joined on as a "field hand" on about any research that was made available to him. And he also worked really hard in his classes. (He was former military)).

So I'm happy to work with her. She was already knowing most of the familiar species by this afternoon, including some of the grasses (grasses can be tricky).

I know some people promote an idea that 18 year olds should either be required to do mandatory military service (as in Israel) or do some kind of mandatory service for two years, the idea being in part to mature them up for college. I admit I tend not to like that idea; the idea of anything that is a "one size fits all" solution means there are some people who will be ill-served. (For example: I was ready for college when I began. And I would have been irked to have to spend two years sitting behind a desk processing papers (which is what I might have wound up doing in the military; I suspect some of the medical stuff I had going on at that time would have kept me from the more active forms of service) or washing bedpans in a hospital. (Now, maybe in a more cosmic sense, it would have been "good" for me, but still, it would have irked me). But I see so many of the "non traditional" students who come in excited and ready to learn and who go the extra mile, and so many of the 18 year olds who come in ill-prepared and with bad attitudes...and well, I just wonder. I wonder some times if some of the immaturity that I rail against could be burned off a little by a couple years military or civic service...

But anyway, it made for a good afternoon. She thanked me when we were done working - I really should have been the one thanking her because having her along made the sampling go much faster and made me get done earlier.

But it is nice to have your expertise appreciated once in a while.

1 comment:

Kate P said...

What a great experience. I'm glad you have some good eggs this semester.

(WV: "ferwhila"--sounds like a rare exotic grass to me!)